US spy agencies see no clear evidence of Iran building nukes

Cover of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate
The United States intelligence community still believes Iran has no immediate goals to produce nuclear arms, and says that Tehran terminated its atomic weapons program in 2003, according to American officials. This is not to say that Iran is not interested in potentially building nuclear weapons. Most intelligence analysts agree that Iran’s long-term goal is to explore the possibility of establishing a nuclear arsenal. However, putting aside the broad concurrence of opinion about Iran’s long-term goal, very little is clear about the current state of Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran maintains that its goal is peaceful, namely to invest in nuclear energy so as to free up large quantities of oil for exports. It is important to stress that the consensus among America’s intelligence agencies is that this is in fact Iran’s immediate goal. This was pronounced in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a publicly available annual report cooperatively authored by the heads of all 16 US intelligence agencies. The 2007 report stated “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”. The US intelligence community has come under sustained criticism from many who have denounced the 2007 and subsequent NIEs as mistaken, or even reckless. Last Friday, however, a New York Times article citing “current and former American officials” said that the consensus among US intelligence analysts remains “that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb”. According to the article, the US intelligence community’s consensus remains “broadly consistent” with the 2007 and 2010 NIEs. Both NIEs concluded that the Iranian government had no immediate plans to revive its nuclear program, which was terminated around the time of the US invasion of Iraq. The Times article also notes that the Central Intelligence Agency supports the consensus view that Tehran has yet to determine whether to establish a parallel nuclear research and development program aimed at designing a functional nuclear warhead.

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